Best of RAH96:
Born Late, And In The Wrong Time Zone
by Dave Bealer
Copyright © 1996 Dave Bealer, All Rights Reserved.
I don't do mornings. Never have, never will. I was born at about
10:30 A.M. on a Wednesday morning (some few decades ago), and
immediately began to loudly express my dim view of being disturbed
at such an early hour. My mother gave birth to me about a week after
her due date. Late for my very first appointment, I've managed to
live up to that first impression throughout most of my life.
Unfortunately my parents were both early birds. Even worse, they
were punctuality freaks. Exasperated by my constant tardiness, they
insisted that I leave "extra early" for everything so I wouldn't be
late. It got so bad that I often found myself waiting for the school
bus at 4 A.M. -- and that was for kindergarten. Once I entered first
grade they really started cracking down.
My school years were an unrelenting nightmare of having to get up in
the middle of what my body considers the night and venture forth to
deal with chipper, bright-eyed, totally infuriating morning people.
It's a wonder I didn't end up in reform school for strangling one of
those sappy, happy yoyos.
Getting out of school didn't help all that much. My parents lacked
a certain sympathy for their college dropout son and expected me to
get up and go to work...or at least look for work. Curses, foiled again!
When I finally returned to college I did manage to schedule all my
classes in the afternoon and evening for a couple of semesters, but so
many required courses were offered only at 8 or 9 A.M. that I was often
found sleepwalking to my first class.
Even summer held no respite. I had summer jobs - always on day shift.
The final insult was that on days off from work my mother would take
perverse satisfaction from waking me up in the morning if one of my
morning person "friends" telephoned. The ringing phone would wake me
up, at least partially. From out in the living room I'd hear Mom saying,
"No, he's not up yet, but it's definitely time for him to get up!"
Wearily I'd eye the alarm clock on the dresser. Ten A.M. Groan!
Eventually I graduated from college, and somehow managed to turn up in
time for the ceremony, which started in the morning. I ended up finding
a good job almost immediately... on day shift! The first job I had offered
a benefit called flextime, which allowed employees to show up any time
between 6:30 A.M. and 9:30 A.M. Guess who just barely made it to work
between 9:20 and 9:40 A.M. every day?
The early birds used my arrival as an alarm. "Hey, Dave's here! It must be
9:30, give or take a few minutes - time for me to take my morning break."
On those rare occasions when I was in the office at 6:30 A.M. (usually
because I had been there all night working on some problem) it would
really shake people up. They'd do double takes, glance at their watches,
then look at me like they had just seen the sun set in the east.
I suffered through these various forms of torture for just over 35 years.
The only time I ever felt truly at peace getting up in the morning
is when I was in the western states. Now in California this could be
due to inhaling a little too much secondary marijuana smoke, but it
could also have to do with the time zones. Since I feel the same way
when I'm in Nevada, we'll assume for the moment it must be the time
Could it be? Is it possible that I was born in the wrong time zone?
Is my internal clock set for Pacific time? There is some anecdotal
evidence to support this theory. On my first trip to California (July 1987)
I was getting to work at 6 A.M. regularly - because that's when the
client required us - to monitor the results of the operating system
install we had done. Strangely, this posed no problem for me.
Of course that was only my second airplane ride anywhere (the first
occurred just a month before) and the first cross-country excursion.
The trip lasted only 8 days, so jet boost (or whatever they call inverse
jet lag) could have played a factor, not to mention the novelty of seeing
the Pacific Ocean (and San Francisco!) for the first time.
California was just too weird (and wonderful) to really absorb it all on
that first trip. After five or six days I found myself looking at things
that would have caused me to exclaim, "Look at that, isn't that incredible!"
on the first day of the trip and saying (in a bored, flat voice), "Like,
wow, man." At least I had discovered what causes "valleyism" in the speech
of Californians. It's the scenery!
In 1992 I spent most of the month of April in California and Nevada.
After flying into San Francisco International on 4/5/92 I did all my
travelling by car until the flight home on 4/29/92. This eliminated
jet lag (or whatever) from the equation after the first few days.
Again, I simply didn't have a problem getting up early. True, I reset
my watch on the flight out, but my biorhythms stayed the same...and
fit right in.
This must be it! My body is set for Pacific Time. I can get up early,
and it's not much of a problem. I can also fall to sleep early in
California, before midnight, without any hassle (save from the occasional
earthquake, flash flood, firestorm, or plague of locusts). The question
was, did I want to move all the way to the West Coast just for that reason?
Fortunately I was saved from that necessity by an opportunity which
cropped up just a few months later. In October 1992 I changed jobs,
moving into DP management, and onto night shift, both for the first
time in my life. It was magical! (Night shift, not DP management.)
Suddenly I could sleep in every morning with no nasty phone calls from
the boss. In fact I only need to set an alarm when I have some morning
appointment (which I avoid like the plague, of course). The only problem
with this situation is that training classes, which used to mean a welcome
day or few out of the office, now mean switching back to day shift.
The biggest advantage of working evenings is missing prime time television.
I tape "Dave's World" and "Home Improvement", the only two worthwhile
shows on the air these days, and happily ignore the rest. There isn't
anything better on at 1 AM when I get home, but I do have the tapes of
the aforementioned shows, not to mention an extensive collection of
British Comedy tapes. Besides, I do my best writing in the wee hours
of the morning.
So life, in general, is good. My only concern is that someday someone will
prove that being awake late at night causes cancer. My personal theory
is that being alive on planet Earth is what causes cancer.
Dave Bealer is a fifty-something mainframe systems programmer who
works with CICS, z/OS and all manner of nasty acronyms at one of the
largest heavy metal shops on the East Coast. He shares a waterfront
townhome in Pasadena, MD. with a cat who annoys him endlessly as he
assiduously avoids writing for and publishing Random Access Humor.
Dave can be reached via e-mail at:
90% of being smart is knowing what you're dumb at.